By Elana Lyn
The first round of job interviews at a company is usually a phone interview with someone from HR. This interview is often called a screening, and it determines whether or not you will be passed along to the hiring managers for the specific role. Phone interviews can be difficult, but here are a few tips you need to know for handling them well!
Prepare Ahead of Time
Prepare ahead of time and prepare exactly how you would for an in-person interview. People often assume that a phone screening will be “easier” than an in-person interview or interview with a hiring manager. However, it could actually be considered to be more important because your performance helps to determine if you will get to the next round.
Don’t wear your pajamas, gym clothes, or sweatpants, even if you just rolled out of bed, went to the gym, or sweatpants are all that fit you right now*. I’ve always thought that how you dress can affect your demeanor and performance. I originally thought that it might just have been because I went to boarding school and they were strict about dress code, but then I read an interesting article about clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner’s theory regarding “the psychology of dress.” You don’t have to wear a suit or anything overly formal, but look professional and wear something that makes you feel both comfortable and confident.
The psychology of body language is fascinating. For example, having good posture and sitting up instead of slouching gives the impression that you are confident and in control. Don’t fidget your hands or arms because it communicates that you are anxious or bored. Crossing your arms sends the message that you are closed off, annoyed, and unfriendly. Even if they can’t see you, your tone and demeanor will still be affected by your body language. Another tip is to smile while you’re on the phone because it will make you feel and sound happier and more confident. Extra credit: Read The Ultimate Guide to Body Language and What Every Body is Saying. Watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk. Sit in a chair or stand. Try not to walk around or pace back and forth because you may get distracted.
Make it Personal
If you can, pull up the interviewer’s LinkedIn photo or company bio so you can feel a connection to the person, and don’t feel like you are talking to a black hole. I learned this trick at an old internship. The person wasn’t on a job interview, but he was on a phone interview, and it helped him feel a connection with the interviewer.
Keep Out Your Notes
Don’t read them word for word, but if having them there makes you feel more confident, then by all means go for it! You can also jot down a few notes during your interview so you can reference specifics in your thank you note.
If you can, go somewhere quiet where you can focus only on the interview. If you work from home or don’t have a job yet, take the call from home and try to minimize any distracting noises. If you have a job already and have to schedule the interview during the work day, schedule the interview around lunchtime and go somewhere as quiet as possible. Don’t book a conference room at work; go to the coffee shop or walk a few times around the block. It can be really uncomfortable if people from work know that you are searching for a job, so try to keep it private. Go to a quiet (and further away) coffee shop, a bench in a quiet park, or your car, if you drive to work.
Don’t Go on a Tangent
One of the difficulties of phone interviews is that you can’t see the person’s reactions. Try not to have long-winded answers. It is best to keep your answers concise and simple without going on a tangent since you can’t visualize the interviewer’s reaction. Also, wait two or three seconds before answering the question. This gives you time to collect your thoughts, and it prevents you from accidentally interrupting and starting your answer before they were done asking the question.
*”Mean Girls” reference.